A versatile, passionate musician, Mathieu Gaudet has pursued a remarkable career as a soloist, chamber musician, and conductor for the past 20 years. He commands a vast repertoire of works and has [...]
They spoke about it
Creation is a gratuitous, free and unpredictable human gesture.
Unlike Mozart or Beethoven, Franz Schubert made no pretensions of being a virtuoso or skillful improviser, and he never once performed in public. And unlike Bach or Haydn, he was attached to neither court nor church. He can, therefore, be considered the first true composer as we understand the concept today: a musician who creates primarily in response to an inner calling, exclusively serving the beauty of the music, which is sufficient in itself.
Twenty-year-old Schubert was precocious and hard-working, having already composed over 500 works. With compositions such as his Sonata in E-flat Major, D. 568, he could legitimately stake a claim as the successor of the great (first) Viennese school. One of six sonatas composed in 1817 – an annus mirabilis for Schubert – this luminous, optimistic piece overflows with fantasy. Its combination of sincere sensitivity with a hint of nonchalance gives the work a delicious lightness, ever so slightly tinged with melancholy.
The opening movement, a ternary-rhythm “Allegro moderato”, opens with a simple E-flat major arpeggio, whose grace prepares the listener for the second theme, an irresistible dance-like melody in which the echoes of great Viennese balls can be heard. The “Andante molto” unfolds like a dramatic aria, a nod to the immense popularity of Italian music at the time. As is often the case with Schubert, the sublime “Menuetto & trio” give the impression that they had always been etched in Schubert’s soul. Though it seems hardly possible, the finale is even more charming than the previous movements, taking its time over details, unhurriedly revisiting the small joys of a 20-year-old, like a stream flowing slowly through a peaceful forest.
Harsh reality eventually caught up with young Schubert. Publishers began turning down his works. He was desperately short of money. And he was often ill with syphilis. By 1825, Schubert had become increasingly conscious of his own genius but also of his tragic fate. A free creator constantly in search of the ineffable, he was largely ignored by musical Vienna. He nevertheless continued to write, producing a string of masterpieces. The Sonata in A Minor, D. 845, faithfully sets his tragic destiny to music. The “Moderato” opens with the same theme as his contemporaneous lied “Totengräbers Heimweh” (Gravedigger’s Homesickness), D. 842, contemplating death as synonymous with mourning but also with deliverance. Intractable, uncompromising, rhythmically powerful and moving inexorably forward, its character is legendary, towering, impressive.
The slow movement is a theme and variations, the only instance of such a form in all of Schubert’s 20 piano sonatas. It strictly follows the familiar classical tradition of gradually increasing the speed of variations before an eruption of pain with the minor key variation. Its touching and intimate humanity makes it the expressive pinnacle of the work. The enigmatic “Scherzo” serves as a brisk and energetic interlude, stumbling between repeated syncopated notes, from virtuoso flights of fancy to surprising pauses, with the effect that the trio, a delicate lullaby, is even more moving than usual. To conclude, Schubert pays tribute to Mozart with an “Allegro vivace” that evinces great admiration for his elder. Its perpetual motion is modelled on the third movement of Mozart’s sonata K. 310 in A minor. Schubert’s jubilant piece alternates between cries and murmurs, sweetness and pain, revealing a soul whose fragility nonetheless bore a creative power that continues to astonish to this day.
© Mathieu Gaudet
English translation: Rachelle Taylor